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Red Blossom Blog

What is Da Hong Pao Tea?

What is Da Hong Pao Tea?

As one of the most famously celebrated teas in China, Da Hong Pao (translated as either ‘Big Red Robe’, or more poetically, ‘Grand Scarlet Robe’) is surrounded by myth and legend. While fantastic stories have helped to build this tea’s reputation as a rare and valuable commodity, they say little about the quality of flavor found in any particular leaf. So what makes Da Hong Pao so special, and what does it mean when a product is labeled “Big Red Robe”?

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How Tea Grows: Anatomy of a Tea Plant

How Tea Grows: Anatomy of a Tea Plant

With the wide variety of tea styles produced worldwide, it can be hard to believe that all types of tea, excluding herbal tisanes, are made from the same species. Flavors and even the physical attributes of the finished leaves can vary drastically from tea to tea, giving the impression that green teas are in some way fundamentally different from black teas.

But in fact, all teas come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. Thousands of years of cultivation have teased myriad colors, textures, and flavors out of this single species, which now distinguish the huge variety of teas we know and love.

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Defining High Quality: What Makes a Good Tea?

Defining High Quality: What Makes a Good Tea?

With thousands of years of history spanning the entire globe, it’s safe to say that standards for high quality tea are not always consistent. Tastes have changed over time, as tea has gone from an herbal medicine to an imperial tribute to a global commodity. Tastes also vary from region to region, especially when those areas are isolated from each other - tea preferences in Japan and India have both diverged drastically from developments in China over time.

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What is Competition Grade Tea?

What is Competition Grade Tea?

Many teas across all categories are marketed with the phrase “Competition Grade”, a moniker meant to indicate exceptional quality. In a post-imperial age, tea competitions are thought to be the ultimate authority on quality. But as with so many other naming conventions, the regulations surrounding this terminology are lax. While Competition Grade tea may indeed be high quality, the name is no guarantee. In fact, the concept of a competition inherently implies at least two distinct grades.

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Types of Green Tea: The Importance of Harvest Date

Types of Green Tea: The Importance of Harvest Date

Green tea is among the most popular style worldwide, but the huge variety in green teas can be overwhelming. Though the crafting steps of green tea are typically minimal, and the style is narrowly defined by the lack of oxidation, the range in green tea flavor can be enormous, even before considering scented and flavored varieties. To narrow down the options to more a more specific selection of flavor profiles, we recommend asking about harvest date.

Harvest date is the primary criteria for grading traditional Chinese green teas, with the first leaves picked during the year fetching the highest prices. But the most expensive tea is not always best for every palate, and exceptions exist to every rule. So how exactly does harvest date contribute to quality? And what factors can change the impact of traditional harvest dates?

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How Artisans Use Machines To Craft The Best Teas

How Artisans Use Machines To Craft The Best Teas

We love traditional teas, and we believe that expertise passed down through generations of tea farmers and crafters is key to maximizing quality. But we also know the value of innovation. Many of our favorite teas are produced in new and unique ways, whether it’s the experimental oxidation level of our Xin Gong Yi white tea or the blend of varieties in our Three Cultivar Red black tea. And in this modern age, most of our best teas are crafted with the help of machinery, which helps automate crafting processes long done by hand.

It may not fit the romantic image presented to tourists or pictured in documentaries, but the advantages of using machines in the crafting process are hard to deny, especially as premium tea farms face labor shortages and volatile weather conditions. While teas harvested or crafted by machine are sometimes derided by purists, artisans making every style of tea now use machinery specifically developed to mimic the traditional methods of crafting that have been passed down to them. Rather than compromising the quality of the tea, these machines help maintain quality, consistency, and cleanliness during the production process.

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6 Brewing Steps to Test Tea Quality

6 Brewing Steps to Test Tea Quality

During our annual sourcing trips to China and Taiwan, we are presented with a variety of teas at each farm we visit. Some farms grow many different varieties of the tea plant, but every farm produces many lots of tea throughout the harvest season, with differences based on the exact day of harvest and minor adjustments in crafting techniques. Our job is to discern the most subtle of flavor differences and curate our selection to include only the very best. To ensure we get an accurate tasting, we use our own version of the gong fu cha brewing method. Here are the steps we take to gauge the quality of every tea we get the opportunity to taste.

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3 Reasons Why We Source Tea From Small Farms

3 Reasons Why We Source Tea From Small Farms

As direct importers, we made the conscious choice many years ago to source from small, family owned tea farms, despite the extra level of difficulty this adds to our buying process. While large, commercial farms can produce teas with great consistency at inexpensive prices, we choose to seek out smaller, family-owned tea farms that focus on quality over quantity. Often, we have to look far and wide, well outside of the normal boundaries of famed tea markets or major cities. In return for the extra effort of annual sourcing trips through rural mountainous regions in China and Taiwan, we are rewarded with better quality of flavor, inherent sustainability, and an infinite variety of new tea possibilities.

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How Does Weather Change Tea Flavor?

How Does Weather Change Tea Flavor?

One of the things we love about working with traditional tea farms is that the growers we work with are primarily concerned with how the tea tastes, rather than how much they can produce. With this focus on quality over quantity, we are free to appreciate the ways in which even subtle differences in growing conditions can dramatically change the final flavor in our cup. By tasting several lots of tea from the same farm or season, it is easier to isolate specific variables like changes in weather patterns between different farms or years, or even between specific weeks during the harvest season.

Differences in weather between seasons are one of the most important factors in the overall grade of the finished tea, and often correlate to levels of bitterness or astringency as the plant grows more mature leaves throughout the annual growth process. Differences in regional weather patterns, along with local flavor preferences and crafting styles, define ideal harvest dates for each type of traditional tea. And variations in weather patterns, whether from year to year or week to week, keep growers, crafters and tasters on their toes, ensuring that no two harvests taste exactly the same.

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Types of Oolong Tea: Rolled vs. Twisted

Types of Oolong Tea: Rolled vs. Twisted

Oolong teas compose one of the most varied categories of tea because they cover the entire range of oxidation levels between green and black tea. Newcomers to this category might be surprised to find that two teas called “oolong” could be completely different in aroma, flavor, and even leaf shape. In fact, there are four main types of oolong, hailing from four geographically isolated regions near the eastern coast of China. Each region has its own unique terroir and specialized varieties of Camellia sinensis, but the easiest influence to observe in the final flavors of the tea is each region’s specific crafting style. And one aspect of the finished tea that gives us a clue to crafting style is leaf shape.

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